Johnny Harris Restaurant celebrates 90 years - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Johnny Harris Restaurant celebrates 90 years

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It began as a roadside barbecue shack in 1924 on the corner of Bee Road and Victory Drive, but not long after opening, the delicious fried chicken and barbecue was bringing in more patrons than the small building could accommodate.

On Thursday, Johnny Harris Restaurant celebrated 90 years of serving the community.

To celebrate 90 years of serving Savannah natives and tourists, the restaurant plans to unveil a new sign on Thursday night, followed by a ribbon cutting by the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce.

To many, Johnny Harris is more than a restaurant; it's a Savannah jewel.

"That is what Johnny Harris is, a local institution," said patron Judy Downing.

"This part of our heritage and part of being here," said patron Emily Johnson. "So this is great that it is still here."

Cliff and Emily Johnson have been coming to Johnny Harris for as long as they can remember.

"I have lots of memories since 1943," said Cliff Johnson. "I can remember coming with my parents. Many years later, I can remember coming here after the BC prom and we had our dance here and they had a band and Emily had a long Dress. Remember those days."  

"I got engaged here one time, a long time ago," said Downing. "I did a lot of dancing here. I used to come here after school and come get a slice of toast and coke because we didn't have big allowances and this is one of the places that has sustained."

To celebrate its 90th year and to preserve those memories, the restaurant invested $250,000 in renovations.

"We put in new restrooms, new flooring in the dining room," said manager Norman Heidt. "We will unveil a new sign tonight. We renovated our private dining room as well. We painted the roof, got a new smoker, a lot of things going on."

"Ninety years of Johnny Harris being in business, it is a historic event," said family member and partner BJ Lowenthal. "If you think about it, there are many restaurants that don't survive the times. Johnny Harris is one that actually has, so that is quite an achievement in itself."

"It is wonderful food, a great atmosphere and a fantastic tradition, and I hope they are around another 90 years," said the Johnsons. "I won't be, but I hope it will be so my grandchildren can enjoy it."

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